Canadian Manufacturing

Retail Council of Canada examining domestic baby formula manufacturing options

Complicating matters are lingering delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked myriad global supply chain disruptions last year.

May 12, 2022   The Canadian Press

The Retail Council of Canada says some baby formula retailers have begun restricting sales in Canada to cope with spiked demand amid a recall of certain Abbott products.

A dearth of the Chicago-based manufacturer’s Similac powder formulas has increased pressure on other brands as families turn to alternatives, said national spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

While Canada is not experiencing the bare shelves seen at many stores south of the border, she said she knew of at least two national retailers that have begun curtailing online availability.

“Some of them do have a limit on online orders for formula of two units per product. And this is to ensure that their stores are able to have stock available for customers who come in to purchase,” Wasylyshen said on May 11.

Advertisement

The move comes amid fears that an ongoing shortage in the United States could spark similar feeding woes here. Although Canadian retailers use different supply chains, Wasylyshen acknowledged that was a possibility.

“They’re not experiencing major challenges at the present time, but we’ll want to keep our eye on them because the longer the shortage continues from Abbott, the more impacted these other suppliers will be and so we could start to see additional shortages,” Wasylyshen said.

In February, Abbott recalled certain products of several major brands — Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare — and closed its Sturgis, Mich., factory when U.S. federal officials concluded four babies suffered bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility. Two of the infants died.

Abbott said its formula is not likely the source of infection, though the Food and Drug Administration said it is still investigating.

The shutdown has sent parents across the United States scrambling to find substitutions, only to find empty shelves at many stores. Some U.S. retailers, including CVS and Walgreens, have begun limiting purchases to three containers per customer.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., which owns Shoppers Drug Mart, said in an emailed statement on May 11 that supply issues are only affecting the recalled products.

“While this has left holes in our shelves, we do have a good supply of formula from our other vendors,” it said.

Wasylyshen said supply can vary widely in Canada because different retailers use different supply chains.

Complicating matters are lingering delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked myriad global supply chain disruptions last year.

“Everything is taking a little bit longer to get to stores,” she said.